The Difference a Year Makes

This is what February 1 looks like outside my bedroom window just a couple of minutes ago.

As a compare and contrast, here’s what it looked like a year ago today:

Note that the patchy-looking parts of the lawn in last year’s picture are actually patches of ice that were thick enough to step on without cracking. It’s currently 50 degrees outside, which is more than double what it was the same time last year. I can walk outside without shoes and not worry about losing a toe (or slipping and falling on my ass). It’s a little weird.

Yes, I know, insert snark about climate change here. It’s actually not the warmest it’s ever been around here on a February 1st; it was 14 degrees warmer than today on February 1, 1989. Although I don’t doubt the earth is warming (AND THAT HUMANS HAVE A HAND IN IT, PEOPLE), I do chalk this up to relatively normal weather variation.

I should be delighted about this, and the fact we’ve had relatively few snow days here — yay! For once winter doesn’t suck! — but to be honest with you it makes me a little nervous. This is my 11th February here in Ohio; to have it this far out of whack from the usual makes me twitchy and suspicious that summer is going to be hellacious. We will see, I suppose. In the meantime, I’m going to try to appreciate my snow-and-ice-free February 1. Without undue paranoia.

36 Comments on “The Difference a Year Makes”

  1. The other part of it that makes me nervous is that, when January is as mild as this one was, February usually ends up coming back as a screaming bitch-kitty of a month in response.

  2. I’m a little bit wary of the weather right now too. We’ve had some pretty significant snows where I live in mid to late February here the last couple years, and last night my brother and I were wondering if we’re going to be saying,
    “What the hell is this? It was just 60 some degrees a couple weeks ago.”
    Who knows though? I’d just like to not have to shovel so much this year.

  3. It’s been in the mid-70’s here in San Antonio. We’ve also been getting alot of rain lately.

    What does this have to do with anything? I don’t know. lol

    I do know my satsuma tree only produced 1 (one!) satsuma this year and I almost missed it. It was yummy.

  4. It’s currently 50 degrees outside, which is more than double what it was the same time last year.

    John, why do you tempt my inner pedant like that?

  5. Very mild winter here in central Minnesota as well. Last year we had almost double our average snowfall. Spring and summer were ridiculously out of whack. Now winter has been very warm. We have almost no snow and average temp in January was 14 degrees warmer than last year. I like not having to shovel a bunch of snow and the warmer temps have resulted in significant reduction of energy bills. Plain weird. Who knows what February will bring.
    I’ll be in your neck of the woods John in mid-February. Doing seminars in Charleston, WV, Columbus, OH, and then Cincinnati the week of Feb 13. I hope the weather is nice as I plan to fly to Cincinnati and drive along the Ohio river to get to West Virginia. Why not fly to Charleston? The last two times I tried to do that in winter, I almost didn’t get there, due to bad weather.

  6. I think you need to convert to Kelvin before saying the temperature is really double what it was last year. ;-)

    My worry too is that we will have the same weather in August that we’ve had in January.

  7. You’re not the only one who’s nervous John. I’m in the southern part of Ontario and we’re all on pins and needles up here waiting for the big one to hit. From my experience a mild winter like this means we’re going to get blindsided by some really nasty weather at some point, and that it’ll last into what is optimistically called spring.

  8. Who was it that said February is the longest eight weeks of winter ? :)
    As I recall, usually there’s a week or two of mild weather in February, just enough to get people’s hopes up and a few premature crocuses, etc. Then winter comes back with a vengeance and doesn’t really leave until the end of April, more or less. There’s also the traditional blizzard that usually hits Ohio around the first week of April to look forward to :P

  9. My experience is that CapriCon weekend is usually the most viciously nasty frozen (but usually dry) weekend of the winter. So it’s still not too late for seasonal weather to come back and bite us in the collective ass!

  10. Yeah, there seems to a be a bit confusion about the fact that a) global warming is happening but b) global warming doesn’t necessarily have much to do with the fact that one year can be warmer than the other. Like, you know, weather has always been, and global warming is a rather slow process that will be a problem in the future rather than something you can see with your own eyes from one year to another.


  11. Please not not insert any climate change snark. I hate it when people insert climate change snark (either pro or con) into a discussion of weather. Weather is not climate, and vice versa.

  12. You guys have had a mild winter because in Alaska we haven’t. A high pressure system has been holding over the state keeping the cold from moving south as it normaly does. Anchorage has more than twice the snow it usually gets by this time (90+ inches). January has been the 4th coldest on record. It’s gotten to the point where 15F feels warm.

  13. I am so with you, John. Here in Texas, it was hellacious all last summer, and we’ve *barely* had a winter (yes, it usually does freeze down here at least for a couple weeks). My irises are already blooming. We’ll probably need to mow the grass soon. I am not liking this trend one bit, if it’s any indication how this next summer is going to go.

    I need to convince my boss to let me telecommute all summer, from like Canada or something.

  14. We’ve had similar patterns up here in Minnesota. Almost no snow on the ground today, and temperatures in the 40s. Not good. I’m less worried about the potential for a huge storm than I am for the damage the lack of snow is doing – lots of plants depend on the water provided by the melting snow, and there ain’t no snow to melt… It’s a drought, but an invisible one because it isn’t in the heat of the summer.

  15. meh, I have been keeping insanely detailed records of the weather, on or about jan 31st, for the last 48 years. I am here to say, that there is almost ALWAYS a strange warm spell at this time of year.
    Global Warming? Nope. Fluctuations in the weather? Nope.

    Just me getting nice weather for my birthday. Enjoy. And you are welcome.

  16. It’s currently 70 in Northern Virginia. I should have asked to take the convertible today, my husband has gotten to enjoy top-down weather far too often this winter.

  17. I knew somebody would trot out the “temperature is double that of…” statement today. Just surprised that it’s the well-read Scalzi doing so. Tut-tut.

    Dr. Phil

  18. Why all the complaints about “double the temperate”? Pretty sure there is twice the temperate coverage at least in local media from a week ago. At least for here in Indianapolis. And as I sit here in my office looking down at all the superbowl revelers walking to the village, really makes me want to be out in it.

  19. You only have to be twitchy for a day, John, there’s a ground rat in Pennsylvania who will be telling us all we need to know about winter tomorrow.

  20. With respect to temperature being described as “more than double what it was the same time last year,” at least (i) it’s not in our host’s published fiction, (ii) even if it were, it’s not in the same league as what Larry Niven did in the first printing of Ringworld (Ballantine paperback, 1970) in which Earth is turning the wrong way on its axis, with Louis Wu jumping from west to east by one time zone every hour to extend his 200th birthday. This was soon corrected, but I like the originally chosen city names better (Greenwich, Munich, Budapest, Cairo, Tehran).

    DavidK44: I lived in the Twin Cities 1982-93, and we had one such winter back then as well: 1985-86, I think. I don’t recall any lasting drought-type effects.

  21. Prolly Germany took your share of snow and ice, so nothing to worry.

    It’s the coldest winter here in at least 10 years. At least it feels that way. Brrr.

  22. I moved from Florida to Japan last year, so enjoying only my second real winter* (as an undergrad I spent a semester in Beijing). Snow is currently falling… horizontally as I look out the window of the teacher’s room.

  23. I got your glare ice right over here. Come get it.

    And while you’re at it, come help me get my car into my driveway.

  24. There may be hope. In California, we’ve had two mild winters, but in between, a summer that was not hot but unusually cool. Your Meteorology May Vary.

    How fortunate for you that last February’s temp. was not 0°F, for then your comparison would entail computational difficulties — divide by zero, system halted, NAN, Nyah Nyah Nyah, other computer naggery. However, you could then claim that this winter day was infinitely warmer than last year’s, an exemplar of hyperbolic ratios.

  25. Two days ago it was -14, now it’s +35. Where do you think all that cold air went? Good luck next week!

  26. Having just finished The Left Hand of Darkness yesterday, you know what, I’m ok with there being no snow. Or ice. Definitely no ice.

  27. Ursula K Le Guin, “The Left Hand of Darkness.” Perhaps this is the one where the
    colonists adapted somewhat by learning how to hibernate.

    I’m always okay with no ice (I mean? Dilute the whiskey? Why would one /do/
    that!?! ).
    I especially hate when I have to go somewhere, and the freezing rain has coated
    everything–thump, oof, ohhh, owW!

    A very excellent picture that I couldn’t take was just after everything was coated
    with ice from a freezing rain:
    The moon came out and cast a beautiful shadow of my almond tree onto the ice.

    the last time I played with digital cameras they were not a useful purchase.
    It took all of them more than half second to take the pic, and some of them
    waited some four seconds.

  28. Climate change wouldn’t mean a 25 degree jump in a single year anyway. Interesting observation of normal climate variation, but nothing more.

    Rather nice view though. In Florida I just see Spanish Moss as far as the eye can see…

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